Tuesdays at major championships are rarely that interesting. Players practise, talk to the media about, well, pretty much nothing – because nothing continues to happen – and try to get a feel for the golf course.
For most, it’s a working-out-strategy kind of day rather than long, technically-driven sessions on the range. As the old saying goes, “if you haven’t brought it with you, you won’t find it here.”
Tuesday at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis, Missouri, two days before the 100th USPGA Championship, was even less eventful than normal. Prolonged, noisy and ultimately very damp thunder-and-lightning storms led to continual interruptions and a substantial re-working of the interview schedule in the media centre. With nothing else to do, the elite made a mad dash for the podium.
Armed with the biggest incentive of all this week – completing the career Grand Slam – Jordan Spieth was his usual talkative self. Understandably still disappointed by his closing 76 in last month’s Open Championship, the 25-year old Texan was nevertheless willing to discuss and acknowledge how important this event will be to him until he wins the damn thing.
“This tournament will always be circled for me,” he said. “To complete the career Grand Slam is a life-long goal for me. So it is certainly emphasised in my head. But it isn’t overpowering. It won’t take over once I start on the 1st tee, more going into the week. If I were to get myself into contention this week or next year or whatever, I don't think it will play any part in me forcing anything. I'll approach it as a golf tournament that I have a chance to win.”
Which is the aim of all concerned, of course, including the five Australians – club pro Craig Hocknull, Cameron Smith, Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Adam Scott – in the 156-man field. It is a disappointingly meagre number, but it is also one that contains three obvious challengers for the giant Wanamaker Trophy. Day and Scott already know what it is like to win one of golf’s four most important events and Leishman has come as close as one can without actually winning. So their hopes will be justifiably high.
Another in that exalted camp is World No.1 Dustin Johnson. The former US Open champion is never one to talk himself up, but he did go as far as to say he “expected” to play well. For such a laconic character, that was as close to boasting as he is ever likely to come. More upsetting to him than the weather was the fact that he had forgotten to pack a pair of shorts, which have been deemed acceptable attire in the practice rounds.
Tiger Woods did remember his shorts, but of more concern to the 14-time major champion is the fact that how to win appears to have slipped his mind. Ten years on from his iconic US Open victory at Torrey Pines, the 43-year old Californian was his typically obdurate himself during a strained press conference. While he prattled on about his memories of 9-11, 2001, when he was forced to drive back to Florida from St. Louis, Woods was back to his old form when it came to more probing enquiries.
Asked to comment on European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn’s assertion that playing Woods in Paris next month would be “intimidating” for some members of his team, the four-time winner of this event reverted to type.
“I like my chances in match play,” he said.
On the subject of why he had subjected himself to three ice baths – and where in his body he was feeling pain – the day previously, Woods was even more curt.
“No, that’s it.”
Moving right along, Rory McIlroy was a lot more forthcoming. One of the Northern Irishman’s most endearing qualities – of which there are a few – is that he always tries to answer questions. Even hard ones on why he has struggled so much with his wedge game this season.
“What makes me so good with the driver is also what makes me inconsistent with the wedges,” he said. “Hand speed, body speed and rotation are all assets when driving, along with the fact that you need a lot of separation in your upper and lower body with the driver. But you don't need that separation when hitting a wedge.”
Fair enough. So how happy has he been with his overall play in 2018? One victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is a meagre return given how often he has been in contention come Sunday afternoon.
“It is about results at the end of the day,” acknowledged McIlroy. “I know people aren't going to look back at my career and think of the journey and whether it was consistent or not. They are first going to look to see what I won and lost.
“But within myself I am happier playing the golf I'm playing now. I’m giving myself chances nearly every week. So it's not as if my game is in bad shape. I just haven't won as much as I would have liked. But there's still plenty of time to change that.”
Okay, enough. Although the award for “mistake of the day” goes to two-time US Open champion Brooks Koepka. When the subject of America’s national game came up in this baseball-mad city, Koepka unthinking admitted to “not being a big Cardinals fan to be honest.”
And that folks, is what passes for news two days before anything of any importance actually occurs here in the electrical-storm capital of the world. See you tomorrow for more of the same.